One of the most frequently asked questions we hear at CEDR is ‘What are your mediator training courses actually like?’ and one of our delegates on the June Mediator Skills Training (MST) course will be offering a delegate’s perspective through a special daily blog series.
Helena Peacock is the Legal and HR Director at Penguin Books, and has kindly agreed to share her thoughts and experiences while completing the MST course.
Two recent headlines caught my attention: “Four out of five legal disputes can be resolved by mediation” said one firm of solicitors, and “HR professionals take risks if they aren’t skilled in mediation” said an organisation based in Australia dealing with workplace disputes. The article went on to say that these often escalate as a result of failed informal mediation.
To someone like me working in both the legal and HR fields the inference was clear: it’s definitely worth spending time training in order to carry out mediation properly. I chose the CEDR course after careful consideration of alternative providers. Some courses seemed a bit short and perhaps could only provide an introduction whereas others seemed more focused on angry neighbours or work colleagues. I needed something rather broader and deeper to justify any time away from the office and the “gold standard” course provided by CEDR seemed to fit the bill. Clearly the course will be very hard, but the possibility of receiving an acknowledged accreditation was an irresistible pull.
The pre-course reading sounded very daunting. Eight hours was suggested for the mediation handbook and a further eight hours for case studies and the confidential roles which are assigned to each of the participants. However, the handbook is a surprisingly good read. Written in plain and concise language, it walks the reader through the skills needed for, and the various stages of, mediation. Some important topics were reassuringly obvious, such as active listening, although I had no idea there were so many barriers to such listening. But keeping notes to a minimum while “actively listening” is going to be tough for me as my default (learned as a solicitor in private practice many years ago) is to take copious notes during any important meeting. There’s a really good section on challenging successfully and it immediately helped me see why a challenge I recently raised at work went wrong. So I’ve learned some useful things even before the course has officially started. Will I remember when to use an open question and when a closed one is acceptable? Then there’s the instruction to pick up cues from body language. How will I know how to respond? Oh dear, will I get the hang of this?
Despite pre-course nerves I’m feeling very excited about what the next few days will bring. Even if the accreditation proves too much for me (and I know not everyone passes) I can see I’ll learn some valuable skills in managing conflict, and indeed in managing myself in both professional and personal life. Better go and practise actively listening to my husband!
2 June 2013